ROCKETS REBUILD

Media screw-up points to systemic crisis for Rockets organization

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Here's how lousy things are going for the tail-spinning, last-place Houston Rockets. Earlier this week, AT&T SportsNet's website listed a game between the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets. Huh?

Astros Rockets TV Guide Photo by Ken Hoffman

They probably thought the Astros were the only team the Rockets can beat these days.

It's a distant memory lost in current despair, but the Rockets actually were pretty decent at the start of this season. On Feb. 4, the Rockets beat the Grizzlies, 115-103, on the road in Memphis. The Rockets record was 11-10, in the middle of the Western Conference standings, in solid position for a playoff spot.

Since then? Get comfortable, I'm about to go all Charlie Pallilo on you.

The Rockets proceeded to reel off a franchise-record 20 consecutive losses. Things haven't gotten any better. The Rockets now rest in peace in last place in the Western Conference with a 15-44 record, the worst mark in the entire NBA.

Let's see, 15 minus 11, carry the 1, move the decimal point, if X equals Y squared … the Rockets are 4-34 since their inexplicably competitive start.

Now 4-34 isn't just a rough patch of a typically long NBA season. It's a very large sample size, especially considering this is a shortened season with a 72-game schedule. Since that 11-10 start, the Rockets are playing at a catastrophic .105 winning percentage.

The all-time record for worst winning percentage was set by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2011-12. The Bobcats won 7 games and lost 59 for a .106 winning percentage that lockout-shortened season. The worst record for a full 82-game schedule is held by the Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73 for a .109 winning percentage in 1972-73.

This is some way for the Rockets to celebrate their golden anniversary in Houston. The team was born in 1967 as the San Diego Rockets and moved to H-Town in 1971.

The Rockets have earned every bit of this woeful season the hard way: new coach, new general manager, bad trades, bad behavior, no draft picks and lots and lots of injuries. But hold on, the Rockets aren't just a straight-up, won-loss dumpster fire, they're a bettor's nightmare, too. The Rockets have the NBA's worst record, 19-40, against the Vegas line. If you wagered $100 on every game for the Rockets to cover, you'd be $2,500 in the hole. If you wisely bet $100 against the Rockets every game, you'd be only $1,910 to the good. That's Vegas, you can't win for losing.

The Rockets have lost 29 games by double digits, including Wednesday night's 112-89 drubbing by the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center. The Rockets are equal opportunity floppers, with a 7-22 record at home and an almost identical 8-22 record on the road.

The Rockets aren't rebuilding, they're a demolition site. Not one Rockets player Wednesday night was on the roster last year. The Rockets aren't tanking, they're just an abysmal team.

Not one Rockets draft choice in the past 10 years is still on the team. Rockets rookies don't last long in Houston. They shouldn't buy a house or sign an apartment lease here. Smarter to find a place to stay on Airbnb.

Mercifully, the Rockets have only 13 games left this year. They will be underdogs in 12 of them. Circle April 27 on your calendar. The Rockets might be favored when the hopeless Minnesota Timberwolves visit Toyota Center. Good seats available.

Ah, but there's a silver lining to this cloudy, overcast season, right? Finishing out of the playoffs with one of the worst records should give the Rockets a top draft pick, maybe even the No. 1 overall selection, right?

Not so fast, Mr. TV Weatherman. Even if the Rockets end up dead last, they stand only a 25 percent chance of landing the first pick. Since the start of the NBA's draft lottery system in 1985, the team with the worst record got the first pick only six times.

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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